The other day my mom and dad dropped over to my place. It doesn’t happen often, so although I visited them a week or so earlier I was really excited to see them again and spend some more time together.
After a few moments of pleasantries we settled in around the kitchen table. It was then that mom started…that’s right “started”. “How are the boys?” “They’re great mom” I eagerly replied. “I never hear from them” she continued, “I never hear from anybody…has the phone gotten so heavy nobody can pick it up? Nobody cares how I am?”
Yes it was the old guilt trip. As with most guilt trips it was unjustified or at least exaggerated . We contact her plenty. For that matter she could easily call if she were really interested in knowing how we were…but it isn’t really about that is it?
I think that most of us can identify with this situation or at least one similar…
There is a myriad of “things” potentially happening in her mind that are reflected in her statements. Yet at 47 years old and I’ve never found it particularly useful to attempt to psycho analyze anyone never mind attempt to try and figure out my mom.
It seems that the closer people are to us the easier things can blow out of perspective. I know without a doubt that what others say is a reflection of their reality and although I might be part of that reality it is their perception that is either making their reality experience a good one or a bad one.
Trying to analyze my mom will only lead to emotional turmoil. There are too many hidden dynamics and often times the subconscious triggers that get fired off really escalate the things instead of improving them.
The bottom line is mom just wants to feel better…about something, but what?
You see with NLP we are taught and understand that the words a person uses are in fact a structured representation of natural process that is happening in their minds…it is a representation of what they are thinking. Sometimes when we have thoughts that feel bad it is because we have somehow managed to distort, delete or generalize the situation. The Meta Model reveals some twelve different patterns of distortion, delete or generalization.
In my mothers statement I never hear from anybody…has the phone gotten so heavy nobody can pick it up? Nobody loves me?”
The above statement is what we would consider impoverish as the structure of her sentence is not creating a favourable results. The first area that could be reframed is the word “never”. This word is a modal operator of necessity and falls under the “generalization” pattern. A simply reframe to help her to potentially feel better is to respond with “never? nobody ever every phones you?”
The real damage however comes from the Complex Equivalence (Distortion in the Meta Model) that she has in place within the statement (and therefore in her mind). It seems that she has determined that when people don’t call her it means they don’t care.
A Complex Equivalence falls under the Meta Model Pattern of Distortion and quite simply explained a Complex Equivalence is a belief that is represented as A means B.
This belief although possibly true sometimes, it certainly isn’t true all the time Therefore her statement is a generalization that results in a distorted perception of the situation. This can be good some times and if it were good and the person were feeling good about it we’d leave it be, but in this case it is most inconvenient for her as she was feeling bad.
Reframing the situation is what is required. Whenever working with the Meta Model establishing and maintaing rapport is paramount as it is very easy to break rapport when questioning people around their beliefs….unresourceful ones.
- So telemarketers love you?
- How often do I need to phone you to show you I care about you?
- Is it possible to call you too often?
- If I called you twice a day does that mean I love you more than if I called you once every other day, or would that be insincere?
- If I visit you once a week and not call in between does that mean I don’t love you?
- Does it mean I love you less than if I visited you weekly and then called once a week? Does everybody that loves you need to call you? If so how often?
- Does it change depending on whether they are actually related and what their relationship to you is?
Is it possible that I love you even when I don’t call you?
In my case with my mom, I simply let the question slide by, and a little later on hugged her and told her how much I love her. I did that several times throughout her visit and thanked her so much for coming to see me.
In addition I’m making a point to call her weekly just to say hello. Sometimes it’s better to be kind than to be right. And if mom has that belief and she hasn’t asked me to help her change it who I am to decide whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing.
To your success!
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